Your brand is the face that you show the world, and your fans are the people who represent it. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is portrayed in your merch - your T-shirts, hats, CDs and other things you sell, that your fans take home to forever remember that awesome show you put on.
Merch, especially in today's music industry, is the crown jewel of revenue streams for artists. This being the case, it's important to choose wisely when considering what merch to put out there, and it all starts (or it should) with your brand. If your brand has a feel that represents you in an organic, authentic way, your fans will connect to that which will inspire them to support you. If they're inspired to support you, and you give them good merch, they'll buy it, wear it, and become your brand ambassadors. If they become your brand ambassadors, they're marketing for you, and their friends and people in their network will become aware of you and be inclined to jump on the bandwagon. This is how your fan base can grow. As your fan base grows, you’ll have more fans to spread the word to more potential new fans, who will buy things and help generate more revenue for you. More revenue for you means you get to continue to do what you love. Follow so far?
So what's in a brand? Where do I start if I don't have one? What should I do if I have one but I'm not happy with it or I want to reinvent? Let's take a look at some of the things you can tap into that will help represent you in an authentic, "real" way:
What kind of vibe did you put into the musical universe?Now you’ve made some great music that you poured the very essence of your soul into. Was it inspirational? Spiritual? Hopeful? Motivational? Mystical? Were you angry, frustrated or in a dark place? Focused on a cause (political, religious, social, environmental, etc.)? Happy? Joyous? In Love? Going through some emotional strife that forever changed you?
What values embody you as an artist and a person?Do you have a high moral compass or do you gravitate toward a more debaucherous state of being? Do you go with the flow or are you rebellious? Leader or follower? Self-serving or humanitarian? Are you honest or do you over-embellish? Are you open and accessible or private?
What and who inspires you?Love? Relationships? Friends and family? Other artists? Nature and scenery? Spirituality?
What’s your style?
Is it edgy? Conservative? Trendy? Hipster? Glam? Old school? Traditional? Goth? Eclectic? Preppy? Nerdy? Simple? Flamboyant?
How would your fans describe your show to their friends – i.e. your potential new fans?“Wow! That was…” Loud? Raging? Energizing? Mesmerizing? Inspiring? Killer? Mellow? Moving? Soothing?
Whatever the answers to these questions, own them, start to brainstorm how to translate them into a design, and let them shine through.
Whether you’re designing your brand assets yourself or using a graphic artist, the results will be the most optimal if you go in with some ideas already in mind. If you're a peaceful soul, you may not want to have daggers, blood, demons or dark colors or aspects reflected in your brand. If you’re more of a straight laced type, you likely won’t have neon colors in your brand. If you’re a heavy metal artist, you’re most likely not going to want your logo to be a pink pony in a flower field (although the irony couldbe interesting). If your music genre is hop hop, you're probably not going to have a cowboy themed logo or brand artwork. BUT if you're a hip hop artist who happens to like to dress like a cowboy, maybe you work those cowboy boots or hat into your branding somewhere. The bottom line is you want your brand to make sense with your overall persona so people can relate to it and "feel" you.
Whether you’re an artist with an established fan base or you’re building a new fan base, a great way to engage your fans is to invite them into your world and ask them to help in this process. Ask them to vote or give feedback on logos or artwork you’re considering, or take it a step further and ask them to submit some designs based on how they perceive you, and then reward the winner with some incentive. This, in itself, is a way to put forth your authenticity and give fans an opportunity to connect with you as a person or group.
After you’ve honed in on where you want to go with your branding, it’s important to implement it into all aspects of your marketing so that there is some consistency and overall flow – this includes your website, social media content, album artwork, and of course, your merch. So let’s get back to merch for minute. As mentioned, it’s a crucial revenue stream for artists these days, and also serves as a great marketing tool, IF your fans are wearing it. Now that you’ve got this great new brand/logo/artwork, let’s incorporate it into something your fans will want to proudly rep. If they’re wearing your T-shirt as pajamas, it’s probably not doing much for you beyond the dollars you’ve made. Before you pull the trigger and invest in your merch, take a step back and ask yourself does this make sense with who I am, my music and the vibe that I’m wanting to put out there? Would I want to wear it? And more importantly, would someone other than me think this is cool and want to wear it? Pick shirts that are decent quality. Some will argue that it doesn’t matter, that if people love you (or you’re a good salesperson), they will buy it. This may be true to some extent, but with many bands to support and choices to make out there, you might lose some customers who just don’t want to spend money on another stiff white band T-shirt. OR, they may actually buy that shirt and let it sit in their drawer, which again, is not helping to get your brand out there. There are happy mediums out there now where you can find a marriage of quality and affordability.
Maximizing your merch business means also making smart decisions about the merch that you buy, where you buy it, and how you keep track of it and use the data kicked off from your merch sales. When you’re ready, choose a merch provider who has good minimums, good price points, is artist friendly, and has a good variety of merch to choose from. Merch Cat can help with this! Just give us a shout, we’ve got you covered.